Everywoman in tech 2021: Creating a legacy with sustainability

GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post, Lyn Grobler, CIO, Howden Group Holdings and an everywoman in tech awards 2021 judge, talks about some of the ways CIOs and tech leaders can create a legacy for the next generation, including sustainability and tech for good. 

There is no question in anyone’s mind that the pandemic has forced us to rethink priorities. Individually, professionally, culturally, and globally, redefining what is important and what the future could look like, has been thrown into the air. One thing is certain, that a permanent shift towards building a more sustainable and socially responsible world is top of many global agendas, the technology sector included.

Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $4.1 trillion in 2021 (an increase of 8.4% from 2020, according to Gartner). To illustrate this, if the global technology economy was a country and its yearly spending its GDP, it would rank as the world’s third-largest economy, more than twice the size of the UK economy (Brookings 2016). And in terms of resources, worldwide full-time employment in the ICT sector is circa 55m – this is approximately 16% of the working-age population.

It’s clear, therefore, that the technology sector does, and will have, a profound effect on the global recovery and the future of our world, and that we in IT, have a major role in shaping all of our futures.

At Howden Group Holdings, building a sustainable business is inherent in what we do and who we are. For us sustainability means building value for the long term and creating a business we are all proud of through our commitment to making a positive impact – for our employees, our clients and our global community. This applies to everything we do, including IT. In recent years, we have seen a seismic shift in the role digital technology plays in insurance. With the advent of Insurtechs – the traditional insurance landscape has been disrupted irrevocably thanks to emerging technology. From how data and technology leverages customer/client insight to deliver greater value, to driving down margins, to creating more sustainable business models and ESG products, the pandemic has merely reinforced the movement towards a permanent, more universal digital world. Looking beyond the pandemic and for the purpose of this blog, I will focus on three legacy actions I believe, IT leaders, should all be taking.

Leaving a legacy #1: Investing in sustainable and resilient technology solutions

The biggest risk post-pandemic is for us all to lose focus on climate change and sustainable growth. I believe there are opportunities to use data and digital technology to deliver smart, clean and responsible growth that will not only improve productivity but also achieve sustainability objectives. Whether that is sourcing IT solutions conscientiously and partnering with responsible suppliers, or recycling hardware and investing in cloud-based solutions, as a sector, and as CIO’s, we have an obligation to contribute to a more circular economy and drive ethical change around the procuring of IT. Integral to sustainable growth is an IT strategy underpinned by a robust cybersecurity strategy. As the risk of cybersecurity failure grows in parallel with the progression of digital technology, ensuring networks and infrastructures are resilient to attack is critical for responsible, long-term growth.

Leaving a legacy #2: Applying digital technology for good

In the insurance industry how we apply digital technology, rather than its inherent value, is where transformation can really happen. For example, how we use it to deliver products to help address environmental and social issues. At Howden, we have recently developed the Volcano cat bond in partnership with the Danish Red Cross, enabling them to access funds before an emergency event happens, using the latest in super computing power and remote sensing technology. We have also seed-funded Parhelion, the world’s first fully sustainable insurer – both are examples of using digital technology to exploit data to solve emerging risks of the future.

Leaving a legacy #3: Inspiring the next generation

As a sector, we also have a responsibility to be part of a global effort to ensure the next generation acquire the necessary tools, skills and rights for a more sustainable post-pandemic world. Whether that is inspiring the next generation into IT through schemes such as Princes Trust, hiring more diverse and inclusive teams, to providing laptops to schools, we can all contribute to reducing the digital divide and supporting the ‘lost generation’ of COVID.

My question to you is, what legacy do you want to leave?

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